Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 and Full Spectrum Warrior
Publisher: Ubisoft and THQ
Mon, 6 June 2005
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In the real world (mind you, I don't spend too much time there myself), War is no kind of good, right? Pretty much everyone who visits our site knows that (I hope). In videogame form though, war can be a whole lot of fun. Buttonhole recently received the PlayStation 2 versions of two war-related games: Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 (from Ubisoft) and Full Spectrum Warrior (from THQ), both of which use a first person viewpoint. The two games are also both a little bit different to the run of the mill FPS war games out there, so let's take a look at 'em, beginning with Brothers in Arms.
This is completely against how you are supposed to start a review but, well, that's how I like to do things, so let's go for it; I really didn't expect to like Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 (hereon to be referred to as RTH 30). I'm well and truly over World War 2 themed games and I am just getting really tired of the FPS genre as a whole. Still, you should never dismiss things without checking them out first, so I gave the game a chance. I'm glad I did too, because it is pretty darn good.
What sucked me in first was the story. Sure, it is pretty familiar stuff, but it starts off well told and cleverly paced and it remains that way throughout the game. This is backed up by some very consistent and convincing voice-acting. I found myself keen to learn more about the characters and see what would happen next, so that helped make the experience an engaging one.
On top of that, it is all true! The character you play as, Sgt. Matt Baker is based on a real life bloke by the same name, as are the other characters. The missions in the game are based on the actual missions these men really went through. That certainly adds to the authenticity of the game and gives it all a bigger sense of drama. These extraordinary situations you are playing through are things that real people experienced. Playing from the comfort of your home you can be thankful that, for you, it is all just a game.
The other most notable aspect of RTH 30 is that the gameplay is not the more standard 'one man against the world' style of the majority of these kinds of games (in the single player modes at least). Instead you have to closely work with your fellow soldiers (that's where the Brothers in Arms part of the game's title fits in) and consider the best ways to command your men in order to negotiate the predicaments you find yourselves in. In a real war, you'd rarely expect to see one guy running around taking out the entire opposing army by himself like Rambo on (even more) steroids. Good strategy and teamwork is required and that is reflected quite well in RTH 30.
|I dropped my keys somewhere in this area |
You issue commands to your squad mates, telling them to take refuge or cover you while you get into better position and things like that. You can also get them to cook you some eggs and grab you another beer from the fridge. Ok, I made that last part up. The strategy elements mostly work pretty nicely and really do make the game feel more realistic and rewarding.
You're trigger finger won't be forgotten though; there's a lot of shooting action involved too. So, if you are more inclined to just want to let out some frustration on a bunch of virtual Nazi bastards, there's plenty of that included for you as well.
The game has a good amount of variety and should last most players quite a while, so it is certainly worthy of rental and potentially (especially if you are into the war themes) a purchase. While the graphics can be a bit blurry at times, as a whole they do a reasonable job of things. The PS2 version is actually the weakest one out there. If you have an Xbox or PC you should get the version of RTH 30 for one of them over the PS2 port. The PlayStation 2 game has lesser graphics and a few other things that aren't quite up to the standard of the game running on the other systems. There can be some frustration with the AI playing up and other little niggles as well, but I never found those problems too awful. So, if the PS2 is your only gaming option, that's cool; Brothers in Arms: Road to Hill 30 is still a good game.
Go ahead and follow in Sgt. Baker's footsteps and if you're anything like me you'll end up getting sucked right in. Once you are done with the single player game, there's online support and the interesting tactical multi-player games should keep you enthralled for quite some time.
The story of the game and the interesting new gameplay elements were enough for me to recommend this one. I score it a solid 8 out of 11 buttons.
Full Spectrum Warrior is another port of a game that first
appeared on the Xbox and PC. As with the game above, this is the weakest version available (in this case it is a little less graphically detailed and smooth, which is not a huge deal), but still good enough to warrant some attention if you only have Sony's console.
Can you fight a war without ever pulling a trigger? Sure you can, you just instruct other people to do the shooting for you. That's basically what you do in Full Spectrum Warrior, which apparently is adapted from an actual military training program. Rather than controlling an individual character, you have a team of soldiers and you have to guide them, like they were puppets and you held the strings. Order the men to take cover, go over there, shoot that dude in the head and so on. Despite using the first person view, Full Spectrum Warrior plays more like a strategy/puzzle game than a regular FPS. You ought to give it a try though, because once you get into it you might find it compelling, trying to figure out how to progress from place to place.
The game starts off with a training course and this is an excellent way to familiarize the player with Full Spectrum Warrior's gameplay and mechanics. Here you will learn how to use the troops effectively and all the nuances of making the best use of cover, using suppressive fire, blowing things up with grenades and all that kind of caper. This training, and the whole game for that matter, has a very authentic military feel going on. The characters in the game are all presented with their own distinctive personalities too, though it all feels rather cliched. The war campaign itself is set in a fictional country, but I'm sure it is no accident that the place looks exactly like Iraq. If you have a mind for the army and you like movies such as Black Hawk Down you should find it all most appealing.
Graphically, despite being (as I mentioned) less detailed than the other versions and suffering from a rather uneven frame rate, the game still manages to be quite impressive. There's some very good animation and the character models and environments have a realistic look about them. The sound effects and voices are all well done too.
|I told you not to park in that handicap space |
Full Spectrum Warrior requires a great deal of patience and the game can be highly frustrating. So if you are looking for some quick thrills, or you crack the shits easily, this won't be one for you. You will find yourself stuck at numerous times as the situations in the game get ever more complex. Getting into a stalemate where neither you nor the enemy has an advantage can be a real pain and that happens fairly often.
The other problem with the game is that before too long it all becomes quite repetitious. There's very little variety in the missions, with the same basic patterns and tasks being required over and over again. Before it gets to that stage though, the game is quite fun and even after the repetition sets in it remains rewarding when you get past some of the trickier parts. You can play Full Spectrum Warrior online too, which would no doubt extend the lifespan of the game. I haven't tried the multi-player side of the game though, so I'm unable to tell you just how well that works. Even so, multi-player features are always a welcome addition.
The appeal of this game is less wide reaching than for Brothers in Arms, because it just one of those kinds of games that some people are going to enjoy and others won't. So I'd suggest renting Full Spectrum Warrior first for most gamers. There's a sequel on the way and I am interested to see how it turns out, because the first one has shown a lot of potential already.
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There's plenty to like about Full Spectrum Warrior and I am always glad to see a game that is offering an experience that isn't exactly the same as 10 thousand other titles